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The Big Day: Chicago Red Stars vs Portland Thorns FC, NWSL Playoff Semifinal Preview

The Red Stars take on Portland Thorns FC this Sunday in the NWSL playoffs

Shaina Benhiyoun Photography

The big day is finally upon us. The Chicago Red Stars host their first home semifinal in five years this Sunday against Portland Thorns FC.

After 24 regular season matches, some untimely injuries, players in and out of the season for the World Cup, and then out again for World Cup victory tour matches, the Red Stars have finally made it to match day 25 with the chance to play together again one more time before the book closes on this season.

The Red Stars are facing a number of storylines and narratives heading into this matchup against Portland; the biggest one being their own regular season history against the Thorns, 3 weeks between their last match, along with a number of opinions surrounding the future of their star striker Sam Kerr.

Having gone through a season of streaks with wins and losses, the Red Stars still remained considerably in control of their playoff destiny as their regular season came to a close. However, if Chicago wants one more chance to take the pitch together as assembled in an effort to compete for a championship, they’ve got to win their semifinal in all phases — offensively, defensively, and mentally.

Regular Season Record 0W-2L-1D

Chicago drew once and lost twice to Portland Thorns FC this season. Each match taking place in different areas of those aforementioned streaks. The Red Stars only have 2 draws to their season, the second of which came right after their week 1 draw against North Carolina Courage in the form of a fierce and wild 4-4 draw.

Their next two matches against Portland would take place in June and August and end in 0-3 losses. Each loss took place during a losing stretch for the Red Stars, and each loss came against a Chicago squad that was a World Cup version as well as a squad at full strength.

Chicago’s overall record against the Thorns is pretty abysmal on it’s own, with no wins and a small number of draws since 2013. If people are placing their bets based on history alone, the record favors Portland. The stage is set for Chicago, at home, if they want to slay demons and smash narratives.

Starting Lineup We’d Like To See

Here’s who we would like to see make some history on Sunday.

Keys To The Match

In A Simulation: Chicago’s current backline of Short, Ertz, Davidson, and Gorden has had some strong performances down the stretch, they’ll need to be elite against a Thorns top line featuring Tobin Heath. With backlines and toplines in place, we think this match is likely to come down to the midfield, so we’re looking at the trifecta of Vanessa DiBernardo, Morgan Brian, and Danielle Colaprico to lead the way here.

So Glad You Arrived: Chicago made trades to bring both Savannah McCaskill and Katie Johnson from a struggling Sky Blue FC to Chicago at different points this season. To date, they have rotated as the Red Stars third forward option, with each of them bringing something different to the pitch. However they are utilized this match, they will need to have an impact as that extra option.

The Only Way To Survive Is To Go Crazy: Yuki Nagasato is in a band. Sam Kerr doesn’t want to talk about shit else but Chicago and the semifinal. Alyssa Naeher dunks on crossword puzzles. However each of these athletes have kept themselves locked in over the last 3 weeks has worked, with the messaging coming out of trainings echoed similarly no matter the player— but Sunday is the day to unleash, go crazy and leave it out there.

Players To Watch

Portland Thorns FC: Christine Sinclair, I hear she is a moose goat.

Chicago Red Stars: They’re all good Red Stars.

Wild Prediction

Por favor.

How To Watch

Tailgate: YES! A tailgate! Kicks off at 11:30 am and is co-sponsored by Chicago Local 134 and Budwieser. Make sure you mingle and get some free beverages.

Match Kickoff: 2:30pm CT at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL.


Stream: ESPN App

Final Thoughts

How have you stayed locked in this week? Is this the year? Will you be attending the game? Make sure you share your thoughts in the comments below!